wave.jpgAuthorities have removed a barge that became beached near San Francisco’s St. Francis Yacht Club Tuesday, a U.S. Coast Guard spokeswoman said Wednesday.

Lt. j.g. Laura Williams said the barge, which was transporting sand and rock, likely from a dredging operation, ran aground on Tuesday at about 7:30 a.m.

She said that the unmanned barge was intentionally pushed aground by a tugboat after operators noticed flooding in the engine room.

“They did it so the vessel wouldn’t be stuck in deep water,” Williams said.

Almost 15 hours later, crews had finally removed water and sand from the barge, set it back afloat, and directed it to Oakland, Williams said.

“Crews removed lots of water and used a crane to get rid of 700 tons of sand that the barge was carrying,” Williams said. “The lighter weight helped it float.”

Williams said that once the sand and water were removed, no additional flooding was reported.

“It was strange,” Williams said.

Investigators are still trying to determine why the vessel was taking on water.

The barge could have been carrying thousands of gallons of diesel fuel, and there were reports of a sheen in the water, Williams said.

Pollution investigators responded due to the potential hazard, Williams said, and double boom was deployed around the vessel to contain any leaking fuel.

The Coast Guard sent its 25-foot Cutter Hawksbill response boat and a MH-65 helicopter to the scene.

Crews used the helicopter to survey the water and at about 3:30 p.m., the sheen had disappeared from the water’s surface, according to Williams.

Williams said that although a small amount of fuel did end up in the water, the volume was negligible.

“The fuel wasn’t leaking out of the tank,” Williams said. “The oil was determined to be residual fuel left in the engine room. The oil just mixed with the flooded water.”

No injuries have been reported, Williams said.

The ship was originally destined for Richmond but detoured to Oakland after crews determined conditions were too severe for the trip.

“It was too dangerous. There were high winds and waves,” Williams said.

Crews will continue to investigate the cause of the flooding and assess the damage accrued to the ship, Williams said.

There was no estimate as to when the barge would make its way north to Richmond, Williams said.

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